JMC : Pre-Scholastic Philosophy / by Albert Stöckl

Teaching Regarding God and Creation.

§ 76.

1. Augustine's chief proof for the existence of God is derived from our notion of the True and the Good. It is a fact that we know truth. Now, irrespective of the principle that an absolute truth must be supposed, to enable us to know any truth whatever, it is to be noted that whatever is true is so only because of the absolute truth, that is, because it participates in that truth. There must, therefore, exist an absolute truth: this truth is God. God, therefore, exists. Again, it is undeniable that we all strive after what is good, for we all seek to be happy. There are many kinds of changeable good after which we may strive. But, nothing changeable is good of itself; it is good only because it participates in the good which is absolute and unchangeable. It follows that there must exist a good which is, in itself, absolute and unchangeable. This good is God. God, therefore, exists (De Lib. Arb., II, c. 3, 15 ; De Trin., VIII, c. 3).

2. God, as He is in Himself, is above all predicates. No one of the categories can be applied to Him in the sense in which it is applicable to creatures. Even the category of Substance cannot be applied to Him in its proper sense; if it were so, then it would follow that He could be the subject of accidents. In regard to God, it is better to employ the notion Essence (Essentia) than the notion Substance. From this it follows that God, as He is in Himself, is incomprehensible and ineffable; there exists no term which is worthy of Him or which rightly signifies His Being. In the right understanding of this truth consists the right knowledge of God. Deus melius scitur nesciendo. If, however, we speak of Him in human language, we must attribute to Him all that our thoughts can conceive of what is loftiest and most excellent.

3. God is absolute simplicity. He is not only free from every admixture of material element -- an eternal immutable Form -- but, furthermore, every attribute which belongs to Him is one and the same thing with His Essence. In God, being, life, wisdom, goodness, etc., are not different things; all these are, in Him, one and the same thing -- His absolute infinite Essence. God is not good or just because of participated justice or goodness; He is His own justice and goodness. The same holds of His other attributes. God is, therefore, absolutely immutable and imperishable; no shadow of change can affect Him.

4. God is eternal. His existence is an unchanging present, without a past and without a future. God is immeasurable and omnipresent; limitation and extension in space have no application to Him. He is above space and above time; and yet He is in every space and at all times, whole in the whole, and whole in every part.

5. God is absolute intelligence and absolute will, and is, therefore, the absolute spirit. As spirit, God is Divine. Conceiving in thought His own Essence, He generates within Himself the Eternal, Personal Word, in whom the whole infinitude of His Being is expressed. The Divine Word is thus the Son of God, the Personal Image of the Father. Again, the Father loves Himself in the Son, and the Son loves Himself in the Father, and in this love there proceeds from both Love rendered personal -- the Holy Ghost. In the Divine Word, moreover, the Father expresses not merely Himself, He expresses all other things likewise. The Divine Word includes within Himself the ideas or primal causes of all things; these ideas may even be said to be the Logos Himself, for nothing can exist in Him which is not His Being itself.

6. God is omniscient. Nothing is hidden from His gaze. His knowledge is antecedent to the existence of things which are. We have knowledge of things because they are, and in so far forth as they are; but things are for the reason that God knows them, and after the manner that God knows them. God is absolutely free. He is sufficient for His own happiness. He has no need of any other thing. All His actions, therefore, producing effects extrinsic to Himself are absolutely free. No shadow of necessity can affect His will. Whatever He determines on, He chooses freely; but His choice once made, He cannot change His decision; such a change would imply imperfection of knowledge or imperfection of will.

7. God is omnipotent. Whatever He wills He can effect, and He can effect it by His mere will, without need of the concurrence of any other cause. God's will is co-extensive with God's power. Whatever is in contradiction with His essence or His attributes, that God cannot will, and, consequently, cannot effect. It would be weakness in Him to will or to effect anything of this kind. God is absolutely holy; He can will nothing except what is good; evil He can neither desire nor do. It is, therefore, impossible that He should be the author of evil in the world. God is infinitely good; what He wills, He wills for the good of His creatures. He is, however, absolutely just; He must therefore reward or punish each man according to his deserts.

8. There does not exist any eternal matter, apart from God, out of which He fashioned the created world; for God, being omnipotent, has no need of a material substrate on which to exercise His productive power; His onmipotence is competent to give things their total being. Nor has God produced the world from out His own being; in such a supposition the world would be like to Him in nature. The origin of the world can, therefore, be explained only by creation from nothing. God created the world from nothing. But He did not effect this creation unconsciously. He reproduced in creation the eternal ideas of the Divine Word. Every species of being has its proper idea in the Divine Word, and is created to the likeness of that idea.

9. The creation of the world is the revelation of the Divine goodness. God was not, however, so moved by His goodness to create, that creation was for Him a necessity. On the contrary, the ultimate and highest reason for creation was the absolute and free choice of God. He has created the world because He willed so to do. To seek a higher reason for this Divine resolve would be to set above God a higher power on which He would be dependent, and so to deny His supremacy. The perfection and happiness of God have received no increase from creation the creative activity of God has been a benefit to creatures only.

10. Created things are not without beginning, and they are not eternal, for they are changeable and perishable, and what is changeable and perishable cannot be eternal. Whatever is created is limited in time and space. Time is the measure of movement; it can begin only with the beginning of motion. Hence the world is not in time; contrariwise time was created in and with the world. Before the creation of the world there was no time. The same holds good of space, for without an extended world space is inconceivable.

11. God created all things simultaneously -- the world of spirits and the world of matter. Creavit omnia simul. In the Scriptural expresssion: "God created the heavens and the earth," we are to understand by the term "heaven" the world of spirits, and by the term "earth" corporeal nature. Matter without form was the direct product of the Divine act of creation. This formless matter had no determinate -- no actual character; it was "almost nothing." It could not, therefore, exist for an instant in the formless condition; it must have been clothed in some form or other from the beginning. Matter, then, does not come before form, in the order of time; it takes precedence in the order of nature -- that is to say, matter must be presupposed as the substrate of form; it is only in this sense that matter can be said to have been created first. We must, further, distinguish between spiritual and corporeal matter, of which one is the substrate of the corporeal, the other of the spiritual world.

12. All things having been simultaneously created, we cannot understand by the "six days" of the Mosaic narrative six successive periods of time. The six days represent no more than the order in which things follow one another in the gradations of being. The six days were consequently only one day, or, more properly, one instant, which is mentioned six times, because the Scripture, at each mention of the term, introduces a new order of being, which, of its nature, is next to that immediately preceding, its existence being dependent on the existence of the preceding order. By the six days is meant no more than that the universe of things is divided into six gradations of being; and as the number six is the most perfect number, the phrase may be understood to signify the perfection of the world which God has created.

13. The duration of the created world depends upon God's conservation of its existence. If the sustaining power of God were for a moment withdrawn, the world would sink back into nothingness. The Divine wisdom has furthermore established all things in a comprehensive order, and assigned to each being its determined place in this order; and as He has made all things in order, so does He govern all things and guide them all by His providence to their appointed end. Evil itself is not excluded from this providence, for evil may be made to serve purposes of good.

14. God is not, indeed, the author of evil; but evil could not exist in the world unless by permission of God, since nothing exists contrary to His will. Evil is opposed to the will of God in so far as He abhors it, but it is not opposed to the will of God in the sense that it exists in spite of Him. Consequently, though evil, in itself, is not good, yet it may be said that it is well it should exist, since it does not exist without God's (permissive) will. But it is well that it should only exist in so far as it is subservient to good. God can draw good out of evil. Evil then, is against established order, in so far as it disturbs that order, but it is not for this reason extrinsic to established order, for when the evil exists it is made subject to that order, and hence subservient to good. God might, indeed, have prevented evil, but He preferred to draw good from evil, rather than not permit evil at all. The magnificence of the universal order is rendered more imposing by the presence of evil and by its subordination to good.

15. In the order of the universe there must be little things as well as great. We must not measure things by their usefulness to us; we must not account evil whatever injures us; we must judge each thing according to its own nature; each has its own standard of perfection -- its own form -- its own harmony in itself. All creatures praise and glorify God, and this in such wise that they invite man to praise and glorify Him. Man stands at the summit of the visible world; he is the microcosmos, for he has within himself the being of inanimate bodies, the vegetative life of the plant, the sensuous faculties of the brute, and, over and above this, is possessed of reason, which last attribute brings him into kinship with the angels. Thus, he forms the link of union between the world of spirit and the world of matter.

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